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Submitted to the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and  Westword.


Letter to the Editor

13 September 2004
Reality of Peace vs. Treats of Violence in Columbus Day Protests

Since 1992, the media has consistently described the reason for the cancellation of that year’s “convoy of conquest” (I watched it last year, bikers, limos and semi-trucks do not constitute a parade or an ethnic celebration) as due to the “threats of violence” or “intimidation” by demonstrators or Native Americans. While these alleged threats are continually repeated when giving the history of the resistance to state sponsored hate speech, there has never been an act of violence or intimidation in the fifteen years since Colorado AIM has initiated the resistance to the Columbus Holiday in this area. There has been some civil resistance in protesting the convoy, but these have consistently been peaceful demonstrations.

In 1989, when AIM initiated the protest in this area, there was a rally to protest the holiday and Russell Means was given a ticket for pouring fake blood over the Columbus statue in Civic Park. The next year AIM was set to protest the convoy of conquest, but took the invitation from the organizers of the event to lead the event, because the FIAO promised to discuss the possibility of a name change. In 1991 the same invitation was offered to AIM, but the invitation was declined because the FIAO failed to follow through with their promise to discuss the name change, about 50 people stopped the convoy, and 4 were arrested peaceably. In 1992 there of course was not a convoy, the organizers of the event cancelled the procession due to “fear of violence”, yet no threats were ever issued, except to demonstrate peaceably. From 1993 to 1999 there were only individual celebrations marking the Columbus Holiday, none of which came against any significant resistance, and certainly was not subject to any violence. When the convoy was resurrected in 2000, the rhetoric of “threats of violence” once again dominated the coverage. However, with thousands of protesters and a media build up of potential disaster, 147 people were arrested (with out incident) for civil resistance. The next year a new tactic was started, that of role modeling an inclusive cultural celebration with the Four Directions March. There was a demonstration ready to confront the convoy peacefully , but there was a split in the Italian community that year and the convoy people kept the Columbus name out of the parade. 2001 also marked the beginning of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance, an association of many different groups who are willing to confront racism and envision a better future for Denver. This Alliance is made up of groups of different ethnic, religious and racially backgrounds, including Italian Americans. In 2002 the convoy was again confronted, there was a couple of arrests for resistance, but again, no violence. Last year the Transform Columbus Day Alliance met the convoy, this time with two emissaries, offering an agreement to change the name of the convoy, but the convoy leaders ridiculed it in the street. The demonstrators then turned their backs on the convoy and walked away.

So where do the “threats of violence” or “intimidation” come from? The only talk of any violence has been from statements discussing the right to protect ourselves from the people in the convoy. In 2000, Russell Means was quoted as saying, “If they lay a hand on my children when I’m protesting, then it’s war.” (RM News, 3 Oct. 2000, 4A)  This was given a front page quote next to his name as well as a large font above the article, no doubt to promote the idea of potential violence by the editorial board. However, similar quotes are given from the convoy goers and they are without the large font headline. George Vendegnia was quoted as saying, “These people have a right to protest, but we are not going to stand by and take it.” (RM News, 26 Sept. 2000, Internet) It is time for the media to be honest about this subject and quit the unbalanced stereotyping that is prevalent in the press. The only group of people that is guilty of intimidation is the editorial boards promoting the idea of potential violence in their papers. The people of this area deserve a realistic coverage of the topic at hand, not sensationalized stereotypes of the “violent Indians”. The people of Denver deserve better.


©2004 Transform Columbus Day Alliance